Chernobyl as ‘Post-Normal Accident’. Critical Review of its Technological Causes


This article proposes a critical review of the technological causes that led to the Chernobyl disaster, pointing out some issues that are still debatable and controversial even for the nuclear experts themselves. How is it possible that an electro-nuclear reactor could be destabilized and explode like a bomb due to the wrong decisions taken by its operators? What if it had been a sabotage or —as one would say today— a terrorist act? Based on these questions and due to the dual conception (military and civil) of the ill-fated RBMK-1000 prototype, together with the uncertainty of not really knowing how its explosion occurred, allow Chernobyl to be awarded the character of “post-normal accident”, both from an extra-technical as well as an intra-technical point of view. With this theoretical proposal and from an engineering perspective, the article exhorts to reconsider the epistemological challenge that the unique nature of nuclear and radiological risk represents for the STS field of studies.
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